GOLF NCAA REGIONAL PREVIEW

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VCU Golf punched its ticket to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2010 on April 27 when it captured the A-10 Championship. The Rams are off to the Briggs Ranch Golf Club May 15-17 in San Antonio, Texas. Our own Mike Voyack recently caught up with the team to look ahead to NCAA play.

FALL RAM REPORT NOW ONLINE

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Folks, the Fall 2013 edition of The Ram Report is now available online. Check out profiles on Men’s Soccer goalie Andrew Wells, Women’s Soccer Coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel, former first round draft pick Justin Orenduff and Field Hockey’s Nicole Barry, who had an interesting summer internship, plus a bunch of other good stuff. Click the cover below to read it all.

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KILLING TIME WITH BALL TRICKS

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I really like golf, except when I really hate it.

It’s a great game, and it’s hard not to enjoy a day on a pristine, scenic golf course. But I’m also terrible, which tends to curb my enthusiasm. It does make for some colorful moments. Ask anybody who’s survived a round with me.

Anyway, I can’t even imagine being able to perform ball tricks like VCU senior Adrian Parada does here. He’s just killing time on the range, while I would probably pull a hamstring trying to keep this ball in the air for any more than a couple of bounces.

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As good as that is, Parada still has a ways to go to match VCU’s own Chuck “The Hit Man” Hiter, who seems to have a pretty good handle on this trick shot thing.

ZYLSTRA TO PLAY IN FIRST PGA EVENT

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Former Ram Ryan Zylstra will play in the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic this week.

Former VCU golfer Ryan Zylstra made a little noise this week.

On Monday, Zylstra fired a 64 in a one-round qualifier at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels, W.Va. to earn entry into the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It will be Zylstra’s first career PGA start. He carded 32 strokes on both the front and back nine and placed second in the field only to Daniel Obremski, who shot a course-record 62.

What makes Zylstra’s story even more impressive is that he had only recently returned to competitive golf, as he told the Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Disptach:

Zylstra, 33, has been to the Greenbrier tournament the past two years as a spectator when his mother-in-law purchased tickets. This time he’ll be inside the ropes as a competitor. He and wife Sarah live in Richmond, Va. He played in college for the VCU Rams and tried his hand once at the pro level, but things didn’t work out. He recently got the desire back to play.

“I had some success, then lost interest,” he said. “I didn’t progress the way I wanted and ran out of money. I caddied for a friend (Ted Brown) on the Web.com Tour and got the buzz back. I wanted to compete again.

“I took a shot here. I got off to a good start and rode the momentum.”

A native of Cambridge, Ontario, Zylstra played for the Rams from 2000-02 and was a member of CAA Championship teams in 2001 and 2002. Zylstra placed third overall at the 2002 CAA Championship. Later that season, he spurred the Rams to their first NCAA Championship appearance when he fired a blistering second-round 67 and placed sixth at the NCAA East Region Qualifier in Atlanta, Ga.

Zylstra will tee off in the Greenbriar’s opening round Thursday at 2 p.m. on Old White TPC No. 10 in a threesome that includes Steve LeBrun and Luke List.

THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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MCNULTY IS LAST IN, FIRST OUT

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Freshman Jake McNulty started playing golf competitively just three years ago.

RICHMOND, Va. – Although he’s a year early, Jake McNulty may be right on time.

McNulty, a 17-year-old freshman, will be the No. 1 golfer in VCU’s lineup Sept. 15-16 when the Rams open the year at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C. McNulty earned the No. 1 position after winning VCU Coach Matt Ball’s six-round (108-hole) qualifier. It’s a remarkable development, given that McNulty wasn’t even supposed to be on the team a little over a month ago.

A native of Port Perry, Ontario, where he participated in a Canadian Juniors program led by former VCU great Reg Millage, McNulty was Ball’s top recruiting target for 2013. Although he graduated from Port Perry High School in 2012, McNulty had planned to wait a year before enrolling in college, due in large part to his age.

But on July 30, Ball says he was informed that top golfer Marc Dobias would not be returning to the program, so he reached out to McNulty to see if he would be interested in VCU this year. McNulty visited the Richmond campus on Aug. 12 and committed the same day. He returned for good on Aug. 20.

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VCU ALUM EARNS PGA CHAMPIONSHIP BID

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VCU alumnus Paul Scaletta, 37, will play in his first PGA Championship Aug. 9-12.

Paul Scaletta has probably played more rounds of golf than he’d care to count. The same goes for the hundreds – or even thousands – of tournaments he’s participated in.

But none of them have been like this.

Scaletta, who played for the VCU Golf Team from 1996-98, recently won a spot at the 96th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. when he finished fifth at the PGA Professional National Championship in Seaside, Calif. on June 28. It will be Scaletta’s first time playing in one of golf’s four majors.

For the last four years, Scaletta has been a PGA Club Professional at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., where he teaches the game to men and women of all ages. It was through the PGA Professionals South Florida Sectional Qualifier that he won a trip to the National Championship.

Scaletta was a member of a pair of Colonial Athletic Association Championship squads for VCU in 1997 and 1998. In 1997, he tied for seventh at the CAA Championship at Lane Tree in Goldsboro, N.C., one stroke ahead of teammate and future PGA golfer John Rollins.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? REG MILLAGE

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Reg Millage recently son Billy and daughter Anna

Maybe it’s too early to call it, but Reg Millage’s 4 ½-year-old son Billy seems to be a chip off the old block.

“My little guy is playing the bunkers and hitting some shots and having fun riding around in the golf cart. That’s what it’s all about right now,” Millage, a 2000 VCU graduate says.

When and if Billy, or Millage’s 17-month-old daughter Anna, for that matter, decides to take up golf more seriously, they’ll have an accomplished teacher waiting in the wings.

Millage, more than a decade removed from his days as a two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year (1999 and 2000) and 1999 All-American, has transitioned smoothly into his role as director of junior player development at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario.

A native of Ennismore, Ontario, Millage, 34, provides instruction and advises junior golfers in the hope that someday they’ll become successful college and professional players.

“We’ve got a really good junior program here,” Millage, a member of four CAA Championship teams at VCU, says. “We’re working with groups of kids, trying to create an all-inclusive program. We’re ultimately trying to get one to [a place like] VCU one day, trying to develop some kids that would get a Division I scholarship.”

Millage was named All-America in 1999 and collected two CAA Player of the Year awards (’99, ’00) at VCU.

There are kids as young as 4 years old in the program, but most don’t start moving into a competitive mode until around 10. That’s where Millage comes in.

Millage starred for VCU from 1996-2000, first under late Hall of Fame Coach Jack Bell, then under current Rams’ Coach Matt Ball. He won the CAA’s Rookie of the Year award in 1997 and grabbed the first of his four All-CAA First Team citations. In 2000, one year after earning All-America honors, he qualified as an individual for the NCAA Golf Championship.

After graduating from VCU in 2000 with a degree in business, Millage spent a few years playing as a full-time professional golfer. Off the course, he married his high school sweetheart Lesley in 2006. Around the same time, Millage decided to dedicate more time to his teaching efforts.

“It was always a bit of a natural fit,” he said of coaching. “I enjoyed playing the game a lot and competing and this was a way to stay involved with it.”

When he was growing up in Ontario, Millage never had the benefit of a program like the one at Glen Abbey. But in 2010, the International Olympic Committee announced that golf would be added to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The decision led to an increased interest by the Canadian government in creating a system for developing youth golfers. It also means Millage will likely have no problem staying busy in the near future.

When he’s not teaching golf, he’s showing that he can still play a little too. Millage is ranked in the top 20 among club professionals in Canada and won an Order of Merit from Ontario in 2009 for his efforts.

STROKE CAN’T STOP FORMER RAM AT U.S. OPEN QUALIFIER

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Just 45 days after suffering a stroke, former Ram Steve Gilley advanced to the sectional stage of U.S. Open qualifying.

Steve Gilley probably assumed the 55 he shot in 2005 would be the most memorable round of golf in his life. But that’s not true anymore.

In May, former VCU golfer Steve Gilley, 40, fired a 3-under 69 at U.S. Open qualifying at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas just 45 days after suffering a stroke. The round advanced Gilley into the sectional stage of U.S. Open qualifying Monday in Houston. He had tried, and failed, to qualify 13 times prior to his 69 at Miramont.

On the morning of March 31, he was on the second fairway at his home course in The Woodlands when he realized that he couldn’t see the green 150 yards away. He tried to press on, but quit when he realized he had no feeling or grip pressure in his right hand.

“It was really scary,” he said of the diagnosis. Men in their early forties don’t have strokes, or so he assumed.

Hospitalized for the better part of a week with IVs and oxygen and one test after another, Gilley wasn’t sure he would regain function in his right arm. His doctor told him that if all went well he might play golf again, but not at a high level.

“You don’t play golf for a living, do you?” the doctor asked.

“Well, yeah, I have for the last 15 years,” Gilley said. “It’s all I’ve done.”

“You probably won’t be able to do that anymore,” he was told.

http://www.pga.com/news/eubanks/stroke-victim-steve-gilley-advances-in-us-open-qualifying

Gilley, a native of Eden, N.C. played at VCU from 1993-94. He’s currently the assistant golf course superintendent at The Woodlands Country Club in Houston, Texas. In addition to his day job, Gilley has played golf professionally on a number of smaller tours, the Hooters and Nationwide, to name a couple, for the better part of the last 15 years. In 2006, he won his first Hooters Tour event and finished eighth on its money list.

Prior to his recent post-stroke gem, Gilley’s career highlight was the 55 he carded at Lynwood Golf and Country Club in Martinsville, Va., the lowest verified round recorded on a regulation course.

Here’s Houston TV station KHOU’s take on Gilley’s recent feat.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND (OF THE LAST 17 YEARS…)

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With VCU’s decision to bolt the Colonial Athletic Association still fresh in our minds, maybe now is a good time to take stock of the 17 years the Rams spent in the league. It was a good run and frankly, the CAA’s Virginia-centric appeal was one of the things that made it fun for VCU fans. I can honestly say it’s one of the things I’ll miss, times change.

VCU has won 42 CAA championships since joining the league for the 1994-95 season. The Rams’ 36 titles in men’s sports are the most in league history. The VCU Baseball team will have a chance to add to that mark later this month. The Rams have won 13 championships in men’s tennis, eight in golf and five each in men’s basketball and baseball. Other sports were not as fortunate, but still enjoyed a great deal of success. Here, I’m going to look at the best team from each VCU program of the CAA era.

BASEBALL: 2003 (46-13, 17-3 CAA, CAA Champions, 1-2 NCAAs)
This was a legitimately hard decision. You could make compelling arguments for the 1998 and 2001 teams. This is one of the few picks that required some back-and-forth debate.

But for me, the 2003 squad was a shade better. Not only did they dominate the CAA regular season and sweep the conference tournament, but the Rams also led the country in ERA that season (2.54). Four pitchers, Cla Meredth (6th), Justin Orenduff (1st), Sean Marshall 6th) and Brian Marshall (5th), were selected in the first six rounds of the MLB Draft.  Four other players were also eventually drafted. Sean Marshall and Cla Meredith played in the majors.

MEN’S BASKETBALL: 2010-11 (28-12, 12-6 CAA, NCAA Final Four)
While I’m picking a non-CAA champion here, I doubt I’ll get few arguments. VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011 pretty much trumps everything. During the regular season the Rams were equally magnificent and maddening, but flipped a switch in March. VCU reached the CAA Championship Game, upsetting ranked and heavily-favored George Mason in the process. Despite losing to Old Dominion in the title bout, VCU received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Rams toppled USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on the way to history.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: 2008-09 (26-7, 15-3 CAA, NCAA First Round)
The Rams didn’t win the CAA crown this season (Drexel did), but behind eventual WNBA first round pick Quanitra Hollingsworth, the Rams earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time via an at-large berth. The Rams met Rutgers in the first round and gave the Scarlet Knights a run for their money. In addition to Hollingsworth, future All-American and WNBA Draftee Courtney Hurt was a freshman on this squad.

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